A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm is owned and partly managed by the Florida Citrus Research Foundation (FCRF). The farm does a lot of USDA work in research services, with the most emphasis on varieties produced from the USDA and University of Florida breeding programs. The facility is committed to helping citrus research in support of the U.S. and Florida’s citrus industries. In the bylaws of the farm, it was purposefully written that the land would be dedicated to citrus research and breeding improved new varieties. New Varieties Development & Management Corp. (NVDMC) now has a citrus demonstration site planted at the A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm.
A range of different citrus varieties and types were planted on two different rootstocks. “We actually planted at the beginning of winter,” says Peter Chaires. He is the executive director of NVDMC. “The trees were ready so we went for it, I just checked the site recently and we got whacked a little bit by the cold Winter weather we had but it looks like the trees will grow out of it and be fine.” About 30 varieties are in the ground right now on 2 different rootstocks to see if there is any variability there, as well. The demo site is planted and organized by citrus types to make evaluations easy.
In the future, growers and industry professionals will be able to schedule an appointment at A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm to come walk the rows and compare citrus varieties side by side in the same growing conditions. Also, viewing possible differences among the two rootstocks types with various citrus varieties will be easily accessible. After the COVID pandemic subsides we plan on having a variety/rootstock field day for the Florida Citrus industry. “Often growers visit different groves to check out different varieties, but they usually are not all in the same type of environment,” mentions Chaires.
This plot will allow for easy parallel comparisons of each citrus variety in the same growing environment. The goal is to provide citrus growers with a better understanding of the key differences between the varieties and rootstocks. NVDMC has always been focused on the identifying the best fruit characteristics to meet the needs of the industry, whether for juice or fresh use. HLB management became a necessary component along the way, and tolerance to this disease is important, but overall, their outlook is for the best, juiciest, sweetest varieties.
Ultimately, finding citrus trees that show some tolerance to citrus greening while being able to consistently produce high quality and good tasting fruits is the top objective of the NVDMC site at the farm, with the overall focus of the A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm on improving the citrus industry through continued research.